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The Most Ridiculously Right-Wing Country Songs of All Time

If you really want to understand where Jason Aldean’s “Try That in a Small Town” comes from, you have to go all the way back to Richard Nixon — and before that, George Wallace. Wallace, a former Alabama governor and segregationist independent candidate for president in 1968, got significant support from the country world, even holding fundraisers at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. After defeating Wallace that fall, Nixon saw the right-wing potential of country music, and invited Johnny Cash to the White House a couple of years later for a concert, asking him to cover Merle Haggard’s hippie-bashing “Okie from Muskogee” and the novelty hit “Welfare Cadillac.” Cash, however, disrupted the narrative, and played his anti-war song “What Is Truth,” much to Nixon’s displeasure.

That story and many more are told in the newest episode of Rolling Stone Music Now, which places “Try That in a Small Town” in the larger narrative of reactionary country songs — many of which happen to be much better tunes than Aldean’s plodding Number One hit. (To hear the whole podcast, go here to the podcast provider of your choice, listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, or just press play above.)


Joseph Hudak joins host Brian Hiatt for the discussion, which touches on songs including Merle Haggard’s classics “Okie from Muskogee” and “The Fightin’ Side of Me”; Hank Williams Jr.’s “I’ve Got Rights,” “If the South Would’ve Won,” “Don’t Give Us a Reason,” and “Keep the Change”; Toby Keith’s “Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue (The Angry American)”; Clint Black’s “Iraq & Roll”; Darryl Worley’s “Have You Forgotten?”; and Aaron Lewis’ “Am I The Only One,” among many others.

Download and subscribe to Rolling Stone’s weekly podcast, Rolling Stone Music Now, hosted by Brian Hiatt, on Apple Podcasts or Spotify (or wherever you get your podcasts). Check out six years’ worth of episodes in the archive, including in-depth, career-spanning interviews with Bruce Springsteen, Mariah Carey, Halsey, Neil Young, Snoop Dogg, Brandi Carlile, Phoebe Bridgers, Rick Ross, Alicia Keys, the National, Ice Cube, Taylor Hawkins, Willow, Keith Richards, Robert Plant, Dua Lipa, Questlove, Killer Mike, Julian Casablancas, Sheryl Crow, Johnny Marr, Scott Weiland, Liam Gallagher, Alice Cooper, Fleetwood Mac, Elvis Costello, John Legend, Donald Fagen, Charlie Puth, Phil Collins, Justin Townes Earle, Stephen Malkmus, Sebastian Bach, Tom Petty, Eddie Van Halen, Kelly Clarkson, Pete Townshend, Bob Seger, the Zombies, and Gary Clark Jr. And look for dozens of episodes featuring genre-spanning discussions, debates, and explainers with Rolling Stone’s critics and reporters.

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